John Wesley’s Treatise on Baptism

A TREATISE ON BAPTISM. —————

CONCERNING baptism I shall inquire, what it is; what benefits we receive by it; whether our Savior designed it to remain always in his Church; and who are the proper subjects of it.

I. 1. That it is. It is the initiatory sacrament, which enters us into covenant with God. It was instituted by Christ, who alone has power to institute a proper sacrament, a sign, seal, pledge, and means of grace, perpetually obligatory on all Christians. We know not, indeed, the exact time of its institution; but we know it was long before our Lord’s ascension. And it was instituted in the room of circumcision. For, as that was a sign and seal of God’s covenant, so is this.

2. The matter of this sacrament is water; which, as it has a natural power of cleansing, is the more fit for this symbolical use. Baptism is performed by washing, dipping, or sprinkling the person, in the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Ghost, who is hereby devoted to the ever-blessed Trinity. I say, by washing, dipping, or sprinkling; because it is not determined in Scripture in which of these ways it shall be done, neither by any express precept, nor by any such example as clearly proves it; nor by the force or meaning of the word baptize.

3. That there is no express precept, all calm men allow. Neither is there any conclusive example. John’s baptism in some things agreed with Christ’s, in others differed from it. But it cannot be certainly proved from Scripture, that even John’s was performed by dipping. It is true he baptized in Enon, near Salim, where there was “much water.” But this might refer to breadth rather than depth; since a narrow place would not have been sufficient for so great a multitude. Nor can it be proved, that the 226 baptism of our Savior, or that administered by his disciples, was by immersion. No, nor that of the eunuch baptized by Philip; though “they both went down to the water:” For that going down may relate to the chariot, and implies no determinate depth of water. It might be up to their knees; it might not be above their ankles.

4. And as nothing can be determined from Scripture precept or example, so neither from the force or meaning of the word. For the words baptize and baptism do not necessarily imply dipping, but are used in other senses in several places. Thus we read, that the Jews “were all baptized in the cloud and in the sea;” (1 Corinthians 10:2;) but they were not plunged in either. They could therefore be only sprinkled by drops of the sea-water, and refreshing dews from the cloud; probably intimated in that, “Thou sentest a gracious rain upon thine inheritance, and refreshedst it when it was weary.” (Psalm 67:9.) Again: Christ said to his two disciples, “Ye shall be baptized with the baptism that I am baptized with;” (Mark 10:38;) but neither he nor they were dipped, but only sprinkled or washed with their own blood. Again we read (Mark 7:4) of the baptisms (so it is in the original) of pots and cups, and tables or beds. Now, pots and cups are not necessarily dipped when they are washed. Nay, the Pharisees washed the outsides of them only. And as for tables or beds, none will suppose they could be dipped. Here, then, the word baptism, in its natural sense, is not taken for dipping, but for washing or cleansing. And, that this is the true meaning of the word baptize, is testified by the greatest scholars and most proper judges in this matter. It is true, we read of being “buried with Christ in baptism.” But nothing can be inferred from such a figurative expression. Nay, if it held exactly, it would make as much for sprinkling as for plunging; since, in burying, the body is not plunged through the substance of the earth, but rather earth is poured or sprinkled upon it.

5. And as there is no clear proof of dipping in Scripture, so there is very probable proof of the contrary. It is highly probable, the Apostles themselves baptized great numbers, not by dipping, but by washing, sprinkling, or pouring water. This clearly represented the cleansing from sin, which is figured by baptism. And the quantity of water used was not material; no more than the quantity of bread and wine in the Lord’s supper. The jailer “and all his house were baptized” in the prison; 227 Cornelius with his friends, (and so several households,) at home. Now, is it likely, that all these had ponds or rivers, in or near their houses, sufficient to plunge them all? Every unprejudiced person must allow, the contrary is far more probable. Again: Three thousand at one time, and five thousand at another, were converted and baptized by St. Peter at Jerusalem; where they had none but the gentle waters of Siloam, according to the observation of Mr. Fuller: “There were no water-mills in Jerusalem, because there was no stream large enough to drive them.” The place, therefore, as well as the number, makes it highly probable that all these were baptized by sprinkling or pouring, and not by immersion. To sum up all, the manner of baptizing (whether by dipping or sprinkling) is not determined in Scripture. There is no command for one rather than the other. There is no example from which we can conclude for dipping rather than sprinkling. There are probable examples of both; and both are equally contained in the natural meaning of the word.

II. 1. What are the benefits we receive by baptism, is the next; point to be considered. And the first of these is, the washing away the guilt of original sin, by the application of the merits of Christ’s death. That we are all born under the guilt of Adam’s sin, and that all sin deserves eternal misery, was the unanimous sense of the ancient Church, as it is expressed in the Ninth Article of our own. And the Scripture plainly asserts, that we were “shapen in iniquity, and in sin did our mother conceive us;” that “we were all by nature children of wrath, and dead in trespasses and sins;” that “in Adam all die;” that “by one man’s disobedience all were made sinners;” that “by one man sin entered into the world, and death by sin; which came upon all men, because all had sinned.” This plainly includes infants; for they too die; therefore they have sinned: But not by actual sin; therefore, by original; else what need have they of the death of Christ? Yea, “death reigned from Adam to Moses, even over those who had not sinned” actually “according to the similitude of Adam’s transgression.” This, which can relate to infants only, is a clear proof that the whole race of mankind are obnoxious both to the guilt and punishment of Adam’s transgression. But; “as by the offense of one, judgment came upon all men to condemnation; so by the righteousness of one, the free gift came upon all men, to justification of life.” And the virtue of this free gift, the merits 228 of Christ’s life and death, are applied to us in baptism. “He gave himself for the Church, that he might sanctify and cleanse it with the washing of water by the word;” (Ephesians 5:25, 26;) namely, in baptism, the ordinary instrument of our justification. Agreeably to this, our Church prays in the baptismal office, that the person to be baptized may be “washed and sanctified by the Holy Ghost, and, being delivered from God’s wrath, receive remission of sins, and enjoy the everlasting benediction of his heavenly washing;” and declares in the Rubric at the end of the office, “It is certain, by God’s word, that children who are baptized, dying before they commit actual sin are saved.” And this is agreeable to the unanimous judgment of all the ancient Fathers.

2. By baptism we enter into covenant with God; into that everlasting covenant, which he hath commanded forever; (Psalm 111:9;) that new covenant, which he promised to make with the spiritual Israel; even to “give them a new heart and a new spirit, to sprinkle clean water upon them,” (of which the baptismal is only a figure,) “and to remember their sins and iniquities no more;” in a word, to be their God, as he promised to Abraham, in the evangelical covenant which he made with him and all his spiritual offspring. (Genesis 17:7, 8.) And as circumcision was then the way of entering into this covenant, so baptism is now; which is therefore styled by the Apostle, (so many good interpreters render his words,) “the stipulation, contract, or covenant of a good conscience with God.”

3. By baptism we are admitted into the Church, and consequently made members of Christ, its Head. The Jews were admitted into the Church by circumcision, so are the Christians by baptism. For “as many as are baptized into Christ,” in his name, “have” thereby “put on Christ;” (Galatians 3:27;) that is, are mystically united to Christ, and made one with him. For “by one Spirit we are all baptized into one body,” (1 Corinthians 12:13,) namely, the Church, “the body of Christ.” (Ephesians 4:12.) From which spiritual, vital union with him, proceeds the influence of his grace on those that are baptized; as from our union with the Church, a share in all its privileges, and in all the promises Christ has made to it.

4. By baptism, we who were “by nature children of wrath” are made the children of God. And this regeneration which our Church in so many 229 places ascribes to baptism is more than barely being admitted into the Church, though commonly connected therewith; being “grafted into the body of Christ’s Church, we are made the children of God by adoption and grace.” This is grounded on the plain words of our Lord: “Except a man be born again of water and of the Spirit, he cannot enter into the kingdom of God.” (John 3:5.) By water then, as a means, the water of baptism, we are regenerated or born again; whence it is also called by the Apostle, “the washing of regeneration.” Our Church therefore ascribes no greater virtue to baptism than Christ himself has done. Nor does she ascribe it to the outward washing, but to the inward grace, which, added thereto, makes it a sacrament. Herein a principle of grace is infused, which will not be wholly taken away, unless we quench the Holy Spirit of God by long-continued wickedness.

5 In consequence of our being made children of God, we are heirs of the kingdom of heaven. “If children,” (as the Apostle observes,) “then heirs, heirs of God, and joint-heirs with Christ.” Herein we receive a title to, and an earnest of, “a kingdom which cannot be moved.” Baptism doth now save us, if we live answerable thereto; if we repent, believe, and obey the gospel: Supposing this, as it admits us into the Church here, so into glory hereafter.

III. 1. But did our Savior design this should remain always in his Church? This is the Third thing we are to consider. And this may be dispatched in a few words, since there can be no reasonable doubt, but it was intended to last as long as the Church into which it is the appointed means of entering. In the ordinary way, there is no other means of entering into the Church or into heaven.

2. In all ages, the outward baptism is a means of the inward; as outward circumcision was of the circumcision of the heart. Nor would it have availed a Jew to say, “I have the inward circumcision and therefore do not need the outward too:” That soul was to be cut off from his people. He had despised, he had broken, God’s everlasting covenant, by despising the seal of it. (Genesis 17:14.) Now, the seal of circumcision was to last among the Jews as long as the law lasted, to which it obliged them. By 230 plain parity of reason, baptism, which came in its room, must last among Christians as long as the gospel covenant into which it admits, and whereunto it obliges, all nations.

3. This appears also from the original commission which our Lord gave to his Apostles: “Go, disciple all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost; teaching them. And lo! I am with you always, even unto the end of the world.” Now, as long as this commission lasted, as long as Christ promised to be with them in the execution of it, so long doubtless were they to execute it, and to baptize as well as to teach. But Christ hath promised to be with them, that is, by his Spirit, in their successors, to the end of the world. So long, therefore, without dispute, it was his design that baptism should remain in his Church.

IV. 1. But the grand question is, Who are the proper subjects of baptism? grown persons only, or infants also? In order to answer this fully, I shall, First, lay down the grounds of infant baptism, taken from Scripture, reason, and primitive, universal practice; and, Secondly, answer the objections against it.

2. As to the grounds of it: If infants are guilty of original sin, then they are proper subjects of baptism; seeing, in the ordinary way, they cannot be saved, unless this be washed away by baptism. It has been already proved, that this original stain cleaves to every child of man; and that hereby they are children of wrath, and liable to eternal damnation. It is true, the Second Adam has found a remedy for the disease which came upon all by the offense of the first. But the benefit of this is to be received through the means which he hath appointed; through baptism in particular, which is the ordinary means he hath appointed for that purpose; and to which God hath tied us, though he may not have tied himself. Indeed, where it cannot be had, the case is different, but extraordinary cases do not make void a standing rule. This therefore is our First ground. Infants need to be washed from original sin; therefore they are proper subjects of baptism. 231

3. Secondly. If infants are capable of making a covenant, and were and still are under the evangelical covenant, then they have a right to baptism, which is the entering seal thereof. But infants are capable of making a covenant, and were and still are under the evangelical covenant. The custom of nations and common reason of mankind prove that infants may enter into a covenant, and may be obliged by compacts made by others in their name, and receive advantage by them. But we have stronger proof than this, even God’s own word: “Ye stand this day all of you before the Lord, — your captains, with all the men of Israel; your little ones, your wives and the stranger, — that thou shouldest enter into covenant with the Lord thy God.” (Deuteronomy 29:10-12.) Now, God would never have made a covenant with little ones, if they had not been capable of it. It is not said children only, but little children, the Hebrew word properly signifying infants. And these may be still, as they were of old, obliged to perform, in after time, what they are not capable of performing at the time of their entering into that obligation.

4. The infants of believers, the true children of faithful Abraham, always were under the gospel covenant. They were included in it, they had a right to it and to the seal of it; as an infant heir has a right to his estate, though he cannot yet have actual possession. The covenant with Abraham was a gospel covenant; the condition the same, namely, faith, which the Apostle observes was “imputed unto him for righteousness.” The inseparable fruit of this faith was obedience; for by faith he left his country, and offered his son. The benefits were the same; for God promised “I will be thy God, and the God of thy seed after thee:” And he can promise no more to any creature; for this includes all blessings, temporal and eternal. The Mediator is the same; for it was in his Seed, that is, in Christ, (Genesis 22:18; Galatians 3:16,) that all nations were to be blessed; on which very account the Apostle says, “The gospel was preached unto Abraham.” (Galatians 3:8.) Now, the same promise that was made to him, the same covenant that was made with him, was made “with his children after him.” (Genesis 17:7; Galatians 3:7.) And upon that account it is called “an everlasting covenant.” In this covenant children were also obliged to what they knew not, to the same faith and obedience with Abraham. And so they are still; as they are still equally entitled to all the benefits and promises of it. 232

5. Circumcision was then the seal of the covenant; which is itself therefore figuratively termed the covenant. (Acts 7:8.) Hereby the children of those who professed the true religion were then admitted into it, and obliged to the conditions of it; and when the law was added, to the observance of that also. And when the old seal of circumcision was taken off, this of baptism was added in its room; our Lord appointing one positive institution to succeed another. A new seal was set to Abraham’s covenant; the seals differed, but the deed was the same; only that part was struck off which was political or ceremonial. That baptism came in the room of circumcision, appears as well from the clear reason of the thing, as from the Apostle’s argument, where, after circumcision, he mentions baptism, as that wherein God had “forgiven us our trespasses;” to which he adds, the “blotting out the hand-writing of ordinances,” plainly relating to circumcision and other Jewish rites; which as fairly implies, that baptism came in the room of circumcision, as our Savior’s styling the other sacrament the passover, (Colossians 2:11-13; Luke 22:15,) shows that it was instituted in the place of it. Nor is it any proof that baptism did not succeed circumcision, because it differs in some circumstances, any more than it proves the Lord’s supper did not succeed the passover, because in several circumstances it differs from it. This then is a Second ground. Infants are capable of entering into covenant with God. As they always were, so they still are, under the evangelical covenant. Therefore they have a right to baptism, which is now the entering seal thereof.

6. Thirdly. If infants ought to come to Christ, if they are capable of admission into the Church of God, and consequently of solemn sacramental dedication to him, then they are proper subjects of baptism. But infants are capable of coming to Christ, of admission into the Church, and solemn dedication to God. That infants ought to come to Christ, appears from his own words: “They brought little children to Christ, and the disciples rebuked them. And Jesus said, Suffer little children to come unto me, and forbid them not; for of such is the kingdom of heaven.” (Matthew 19:13, 14.) St. Luke expresses it still more strongly: “They brought unto him even infants, that he might touch them.” (18:15.) These children were so little that they were brought 233 to him; yet he says, “Suffer them to come unto me:” So little, that he “took them up in his arms;” yet he rebukes those who would have hindered their coming to him. And his command respected the future as well as the present. Therefore his disciples or Ministers are still to suffer infants to come, that is, to be brought, unto Christ. But they cannot now come to him, unless by being brought into the Church; which cannot be but by baptism. Yea, and “of such,” says our Lord, “is the kingdom of heaven;” not of such only as were like these infants. For if they themselves were not fit to be subjects of that kingdom, how could others be so, because they were like them? Infants, therefore, are capable of being admitted into the Church, and have a right thereto. Even under the Old Testament they were admitted into it by circumcision. And can we suppose they are in a worse condition under the gospel, than they were under the law? and that our Lord would take away any privileges which they then enjoyed? Would he not rather make additions to them? This, then, is a Third ground. Infants ought to come to Christ, and no man ought to forbid them. They are capable of admission into the Church of God. Therefore, they are proper subjects of baptism.

7. Fourthly. If the Apostles baptized infants, then are they proper subjects of baptism. But the Apostles baptized infants, as is plain from the following consideration: The Jews constantly baptized as well as circumcised all infant proselytes. Our Lord, therefore, commanding his Apostles to proselyte or disciple all nations by baptizing them, and not forbidding them to receive infants as well as others, they must needs baptize children also. That the Jews admitted proselytes by baptism as well as by circumcision, even whole families together, parents and children, we have the unanimous testimony of their most ancient, learned, and authentic writers. The males they received by baptism and circumcision; the women by baptism only. Consequently, the Apostles, unless our Lord had expressly forbidden it, would of course do the same thing. Indeed, the consequence would hold from circumcision only. For if it was the custom of the Jews, when they gathered proselytes out of all nations, to admit children into the Church by circumcision, though they could not 234 actually believe the law, or obey it; then the Apostles, making proselytes to Christianity by baptism, could never think of excluding children, whom the Jews always admitted, (the reason for their admission being the same,) unless our Lord had expressly forbidden it. It follows, the Apostles baptized infants. Therefore, they are proper subjects of baptism.

8. If it be objected, “There is no express mention in Scripture of any infants whom the Apostles baptized,” I would ask, Suppose no mention had been made in the Acts of those two women baptized by the Apostles, yet might we not fairly conclude, that when so many thousands, so many entire households, were baptized, women were not excluded? especially since it was the known custom of the Jews to baptize them? The same holds of children; nay, more strongly, on the account of circumcision. Three thousand were baptized by the Apostles in one day, and five thousand in another. And can it be reasonably supposed that there were no children among such vast numbers? Again: The Apostles baptized many families; nay, we hardly read of one master of a family, who was converted and baptized, but his whole family (as was before the custom among the Jews) were baptized with him: Thus the “jailer’s household, he and all his; the household of Gaius, of Stephanas, of Crispus.” And can we suppose, that in all these households, which, we read, were, without exception, baptized, there should not be so much as one child or infant? But to go one step further: St. Peter says to the multitude, “Repent and be baptized, every one of you, for the remission of sins. For the promise is to you, and to your children.” (Acts 2:38, 39.) Indeed, the answer is made directly to those who asked, “What shall we do?” But it reaches farther than to those who asked the question. And though children could not actually repent, yet they might be baptized. And that they are included, appears, (1.)Because the Apostle addresses to “every one” of them, and in “every one” children must be contained. (2.)They are expressly mentioned: “The promise is to you, and to your children.”

9. Lastly. If to baptize infants has been the general practice of the Christian Church in all places and in all ages, then this must have been the practice of the Apostles, and, consequently, the mind of Christ. But to 235 baptize infants has been the general practice of the Christian Church, in all places and in all ages. Of this we have unexceptionable witnesses: St. Austin for the Latin Church, who flourished before the year 400; and Origen for the Greek, born in the second century; both declaring, not only that the whole Church of Christ did then baptize infants, but likewise that they received this practice from the Apostles themselves. (August. de Genesi, 1. 10, c. 23; Orig. in Rom. vi.) St. Cyprian likewise is express for it, and a whole Council with him. (Epist. ad Fidum.) If need were, we might cite likewise Athanasius, Chrysostom, and a cloud of witnesses. Nor is there one instance to be found in all antiquity, of any orthodox Christian who denied baptism to children when brought to be baptized; nor any one of the Fathers, or ancient; writers, for the first eight hundred years at least, who held it unlawful. And that it has been the practice of all regular Churches ever since, is clear and manifest. Not only our own ancestors when first converted to Christianity, not only all the European Churches, but the African too and the Asiatic, even those of St. Thomas in the Indies, do, and ever did, baptize their children. The fact being thus cleared, that infant baptism has been the general practice of the Christian Church in all places and in all ages, that it has continued without interruption in the Church of God for above seventeen hundred years, we may safely conclude, it was handed down from the Apostles, who best knew the mind of Christ.

10. To sum up the evidence: If outward baptism be generally, in an ordinary way, necessary to salvation, and infants may be saved as well as adults, nor ought we to neglect any means of saving them; if our Lord commands such to come, to be brought unto him, and declares, “Of such is the kingdom of heaven;” if infants are capable of making a covenant, or having a covenant made for them by others, being included in Abraham’s covenant, (which was a covenant of faith, an evangelical covenant,) and never excluded by Christ; if they have; a right to be members of the Church, and were accordingly members of the Jewish; if, suppose our Lord had designed to exclude them from baptism, he must have expressly forbidden his Apostles to baptize them, (which none dares to affirm he did,) since otherwise they would do it of course, according to the universal practice of their nation; if it is highly probable they did so, even from the letter of Scripture, because they frequently baptized whole households, 236 and it would be strange if there were no children among them; if the whole Church of Christ, for seventeen hundred years together, baptized infants, and were never opposed till the last century but one, by some not very holy men in Germany; lastly, if there are such inestimable benefits conferred in baptism, the washing away the guilt of original sin, the engrafting us into Christ, by making us members of his Church, and thereby giving us a right to all the blessings of the gospel; it follows, that infants may, yea, ought to be baptized, and that none ought to hinder them. I am, in the Last place, to answer those objections which are commonly brought against infant baptism: —

1. The chief of these is: “Our Lord said to his Apostles, ‘Go and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost.’ (Matthew 28:19.) Here Christ himself put teaching before baptizing. Therefore, infants, being incapable of being taught, are incapable of being baptized.” I answer, (1.)The order of words in Scripture is no certain rule for the order of things. We read in St. Mark 1:4: “John baptized in the wilderness, and preached the baptism of repentance;” and, verse 5, “They were baptized of him in Jordan, confessing their sins.” Now, either the order of words in Scripture does not always imply the same order of things; or it follows, that John baptized before his hearers either confessed or repented. But, (2.)The words are manifestly mistranslated. For if we read, “Go and teach all nations, baptizing them, — teaching them to observe all things,” it makes plain tautology, vain and senseless repetition. It ought to be translated, (which is the literal meaning of the words,) “Go and make disciples of all nations, by baptizing them.” That infants are capable of being made proselytes or disciples has been already proved; therefore this text, rightly translated, is no valid objection against infant baptism. 237

2. Their next objection is: “The Scripture says, ‘Repent and be baptized; believe and be baptized.’ Therefore, repentance and faith ought to go before baptism. But infants are incapable of these; therefore they are incapable of baptism.” I answer: Repentance and faith were to go before circumcision, as well as before baptism. Therefore, if this argument held, it would prove just as well, that infants were incapable of circumcision. But we know God himself determined the contrary, commanding them to be circumcised at eight days old. Now, if infants were capable of being circumcised, notwithstanding that repentance and faith were to go before circumcision in grown persons, they are just as capable of being baptized; notwithstanding that repentance and faith are, in grown persons, to go before baptism. This objection, therefore, is of no force; for it is as strong against circumcision of infants as infant baptism.

3. It is objected, Thirdly, “There is no command for it in Scripture. Now, God was angry with his own people, because they did that which, he said, ‘I commanded them not.’ (Jeremiah 7:31) One plain text would end all the dispute.” I answer, (1.) We have reason to fear it would not. It is as positively commanded in a very plain text of Scripture, that we should “teach and admonish one another with psalms, and hymns, and spiritual songs, singing to the Lord with grace in our hearts,” (Ephesians 5:19,) as it is to honor our father and mother: But does this put an end to all dispute? Do not these very persons absolutely refuse to do it, notwithstanding a plain text, an express command? I answer, (2.) They themselves practice what there is neither express command nor clear example for in Scripture. They have no express command for baptizing women. They say, indeed, “Women are implied in ‘all nations.’” They are; and so are infants too: But the command is not express for either. And for admitting women to the Lord’s supper, they have neither express command nor clear example. Yet they do it continually, without either one or the other. And they are justified therein 238 by the plain reason of the thing. This also justifies as in baptizing infants, though without express command of clear example. If it be said, “But there is a command, ‘Let a man,’ anqrwpov, ‘examine himself, and so let him eat of that bread;’ (1 Corinthians 11:28;) the word ‘man,’ in the original, signifying indifferently either men or women:” I grant it does in other places; but here the word “himself,” immediately following, confines it to men only. “But women are implied in it, though not expressed.” Certainly; and so are infants in “all nations.” “But we have Scripture example for it: For it is said in the Acts, ‘The Apostles continued in prayer and supplication with the women.’” True, in prayer and supplication; but it is not said, “in communicating:” Nor have we one clear example of it in the Bible. Since, then, they admit women to the communion, without any express command or example, but only by consequence from Scripture, they can never show reason why infants should not be admitted to baptism, when there are so many scriptures which by fair consequence show they have a right to it, and are capable of it. As for the texts wherein God reproves his people for doing “what he commanded them not;” that phrase evidently means, what he had forbidden; particularly in that passage of Jeremiah. The whole verse is, “They have built the high places of Tophet, to burn their sons and their daughters in the fire, which I commanded them not.” Now, God had expressly forbidden them to do this; and that on pain of death. But surely there is a difference between the Jews offering their sons and daughters to devils, and Christians offering theirs to God. On the whole, therefore, it is not only lawful and innocent, but meet, right, and our bounden duty, in conformity to the uninterrupted practice of the whole Church of Christ from the earliest ages, to consecrate our children to God by baptism, as the Jewish Church were commanded to do by circumcision. November 11, 1756.

Hidden Treasure

A Movie trailer came on the other day. I have no idea for what movie but a line sprang out of it and landed on my heart.

“Never underestimate the power of Hidden treasure!”

If you believed there was treasure hidden in your backyard wouldn’t you spend hours every day and night with a shovel in your hand searching? Would blisters stop you? Would snow fall of a cold day or the scorching heat of summer? If you believed there were millions in Gold in your backyard nothing would stop you from finding it.

If you believed there was treasure available to you across town or across the globe would you risk life and limb? would you sell your house to finance the trip? After all what is the value of a house compared to the treasure that is in store?

Jesus said something about this in Matthew 13. He said the kingdom of God is like a hidden treasure and like an expensive pearl when you find it you will give up everything!

Friends, what if we are over thinking evangelism? What if we are over analyzing what it means to share our faith? What if evangelism is simply letting people know there is “Gold in them there hills!”  A treasure, actually, more valuable than Gold, silver, a precious gems; It is a treasure that has the ability not only to change lives but to reshape the entirety of the universe. Yes it is that big. It is the good news of Christ.

The good news that sin is forgiven and we can be in union with the creator.

The good news that says all things will be set right.

The good news that says justice will come and righteousness will reign and mercy and grace will be poured out on us.

The good news that says all things are being made new. They are being made new today and will finally be made new in completeness when the day of glory comes.

It is the good news of Christ.

So how do we let people know about this hidden treasure? It is simple. If you have found the treasure – simply go on a spending spree with it.

Grace you received – grace you give

Forgiveness you received – Forgiveness you give

Peace and comfort was dug up like a treasure – Peace and comfort you spend on others.

the message of the life, death and resurrection of Christ you heard and its this message you share.

 

Go in the grace of God, spending his resources on the world like they will never run out.

Pastor TJ

Sin Stains

I recently was provided with the book  “Just Walk Across the room: Simple Steps pointing people to Faith”  by Bill Hybels

I was happy when the book was given to me. I knew of the recent controversies surrounding Hybels (If you don’t know about it a quick Google search will inform you). However, I received it happily and began reading it happily in efforts to help me be more apt and active in sharing my faith and teaching others to do the same.

I am about 50 pages into the book. If I would have read the book a year or two ago I would have enjoyed it. I would have been encouraged by it . I would have been helped by it.

I thought I could disregard the controversy. I was wrong because sin ripples and sin stains.

With each story of someone he witnessed to and that came to faith I wonder; did they survive the controversy? How has what Bill did affect their faith?

With each story about being led by the Holy Spirit, I am cynical. I wonder if it is true. I wonder if he really was and what else was going on in his life during that plane ride where he shared his faith. I wonder when he Just walked across the room what was going on in the other room with the doors closed.

Sin can’t be isolated. It ripples. It stains. It sticks. It contaminants.

The choices we make in life will affect more than we will truly ever know. The choices we make have deep and lasting ramifications to the kingdom of God.

I don’t know if Bill’s sin has contaminated too much what I can learn from him in this book or any of his others. I don’t know if I can get through the book. This fact may say more about me and possible judgmental attitudes than him. Whatever the case may be, it does illustrate plainly sin stains.

This should give us pause. Stop, think, consider. How has my sin reverberated throughout my life and the life of others? How has my sin contaminated? How has my sin-stained and broken things? How have I fallen way short of perfect? You may not be a sexual predator (or maybe you are) but your bad choices and your sin do affect others whether you want to believe it or not.

There is Good news Jesus cleanses. Jesus purifies. Jesus heals.

 

If we claim to be without sin, we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness.  – I John 1:8-9

 

God can do a work in Bill Hybels heart.

God can bring healing to the women Hybels preyed upon

God can forgive me and make me new and He can do the same for you.

The Unchurched Next Door

When is the last time you invited someone to church?

When is the last time you shared the Gospel?

If the only people that showed up to church this Sunday were people you personally invited the last 6 months—would anyone be there?

These are the type of questions I am asking of myself and my church as  I just finished reading “The Unchurched Next Door” by Thomas Rainer.

This is a  pretty easy read and I recommend everyone to read it to get a little encouragement, along with some understanding and perspective.  You can buy it here.

A big recurring theme throughout the book is “If you invite them they will come.” That is if you invite people to church they will come. Rainer and his team interviewed over 300 people that were unchurched. They asked each of them If a friend or family member were to invite you to church would you go? 31% said they would be very likely to go. 51% said somewhat likely and only 18% said not likely at all.

Then what is the problem? Why is it that week after week in many churches, there are few new faces? It is simple; Christians are not inviting their friends and families to church. Take a look at what unchurched people are saying.

“Eric is a trip. We will be talking about the chargers or the Padres, and before you know it, he’s telling me something about his church or God. I really respect him, He doesn’t beat me over the head with his beliefs, but he isn’t shy to talk to me about them. Most of the church people I know act like  they are ashamed of what they believe.” – Peter W

“You know, the two ministers that talked to me were nice enough but, I mean, like that’s their job. But I’d like to get into a conversation with a church person that’s a normal person like me. Why is it that regular church members never talk about religious stuff?”– Harland G.

“I see several of my neighbors leave for church on Sunday Morning. I am usually on the porch reading the paper, or sometimes I mow my lawn. Every time I see them leave, I feel a little catch in my throat. I mean, I know I should be doing something religious, but I just haven’t attended church most of my life … I know these neighbors who go to church. We talk about a lot of stuff. But I never heard them say anything about their church, God, or anything religious. Why is that? If church matters so much to them why don’t they ever say anything about it?” – Elmer Y

“Mike and Jenny and I make more money than any of us ever dreamed. But we’ve talked about how the money hasn’t really made us happier. I know that they go to church regularly, so I sometimes hint to see if they’ll say anything about it. One time we got into this real serious discussion about important things in life. I decided just to ask them outright if church was important to them. You should have seen how red their faces turned….I just can’t understand it. I think I’m really searching for something, but no one seems to want to talk to me.”  – Sharon W.

“I probably would attend church if someone invited me, and the closer the friend the more likely I would attend.”–John E.

These are real things that real people said. People wanting and searching and wondering why God’s people are silent.

Is it really simple as a conversation? Does all it take is a simple invite? From the data Rainer and his team collected the answer seems to be yes. From my own experience, I will say I have invited several(not enough) people to church throughout my life. I also have not invited others (too many). Something I noticed is that it is far more likely for someone whom I invite to come than someone that wasn’t invited.

This week call your friend, call that family member and simply say “ Hey I was wondering if you would like to join me this Sunday at church.”  you might be surprised at what happens.

Other insights from the book.

There is much more information, stories and encouragement found in “The UnChurched Next door” and perhaps one day I will write more about it. However, I believe the above 700 words faithfully capture the heartbeat of that 250-page book.

 

Grow Series: Seed – Treasuring God’s Word

Rather than put that audio of the past 2 weeks messages or even the transcript, I wanted to share the “booklet” that I distributed at church. This “booklet” is informational and contains much of the same heart as the last 2 sermons that were preached he at Goodhope Nazarene. I hope this information is useful to you.

The B-I-B-L-E! Yes, that’s the book for me. 

Your word is a lamp for my feet,

a light on my path.

Psalm 119:105

 

What is the Bible?

There are many ways to answer this question. Some say Scripture is a legal contract between God and man. Others say it is God’s instruction book for Life (BasicInstructionsBeforeLeavingEarth). Some have called the Bible, “God’s love letter to humankind.” All of these definitions have value and capture an element of what scripture is. When I think about what the Bible is there are 3 big ideas that come to my mind.

  1. The Bible the primary way that God speaks to us today.
  2. The Bible is an epic collaborative story about God, the creator, seeking out his lost children.
  3. When that story is told it acts as a beacon that leads His kids to Him – A trail of breadcrumbs that leads to the banquet of Christ.

The Church of the Nazarene makes this statement about scripture in the fourth Article of Faith:

We believe in the plenary inspiration of the Holy Scriptures, by which we understand the 66 books of the Old and New Testaments, given by divine inspiration, inerrantly revealing the will of God concerning us in all things necessary to our salvation, so that whatever is not contained therein is not to be enjoined as an article of faith. (Luke 24:44-47; John 10:35; 1 Corinthians 15:3-4; 2 Timothy 3:15-17; 1 Peter 1:10-12; 2 Peter 1:20-21)[1]

Christian do and should have a high view of scripture. However, along with our view and definitions of scripture, we need to make sure that our daily life habits match our understanding of scripture. Are we reading the instructions? Are we pondering the love letter? Are we learning the story? Are we allowing God to speak to us through Scripture on a daily basis?

Hopefully, this booklet will be of use to you as you seek to make scripture a part of your daily Life.

Where to Start

 The first thing you need to do is get a Bible translation that you can understand. The question is often asked, “Which version is best?” or “Which translation should I get?” Each translation has its purpose and its strong points and to compare each one in this booklet would be too much. The best answer to “Which one?” is the One you will read and understand. Take some time and go to a Christian bookstore or visit a Bible website like BibleGateway and read different translations see which one you like and understand and go with that one. If you need more assistance in this or want more information about Bible translations talk to your pastor.

Once you have a translation that works for you then make time to read each day. There are a lot of resources out there that can give you a schedule on reading the Bible through in a year and other similar types of reading plans (if you need help finding something like this ask your pastor).

Some, when reading the Bible, will start at the front and try and read it through to the end. Usually, when people attempt this they only get so far before giving up. If you are new to the Bible I would recommend starting with the story of Jesus in one of the four Gospels (Matthew, Mark, Luke, John).

Not a hotdog eating competition

 It is also important to remember scripture reading is not a hotdog-eating contest. The point is not to see how much and how fast you can read. Scripture is the primary way in which God speaks to us today. Approach it that way. Begin with prayer asking God to speak to you and to help you understand as you read. Read a chapter or a section and stop and think about it, pray some more, write down any thoughts you may have about it in a notebook or even in the margins of your Bible. Thank God for speaking to you and look for ways to incorporate what God has communicated to you into your daily Life.

Stay Encouraged

You will sometimes read and you will come to things you do not understand. Or sometimes you will read and it will seem empty and pointless. Sometimes you may forget or get sidetracked for a day or two and not read anything. It is times like this that discouragement can sink in and it can cause us to give up. Stay encouraged and don’t give up.

  • If you don’t understand something write it down and ask! No one knows or understands everything. It is okay to ask. When you ask others or talk to others about scripture you will not only learn and gain understanding but you will also gain deeper friendships with those around you.
  • If it seems dry and empty. Talk to God about it and let him know. Ask him to breath life into your reading. Also remember not every meal hits the spot but every meal is beneficial to our physical health and nourishment. The same is true with our spiritual health and scripture reading.
  • If you forget a couple days you may be tempted to just call it quits. Don’t do that! Just start again today.

As you are faithful in seeking God in His word your life will be filled more and more with the love of God. Also as you seek God the enemy will fight against you to keep you from encountering God. Be strong and courageous the Lord is with you.

Make a Plan

Stop right now and make a plan.

When will you make time in your day for scripture and prayer?

What book of the Bible will you begin with?

Who can you ask to keep you accountable and who are some people you can ask when you have questions?

More than Reading

Engage God in scripture it is about more than reading. Throughout the Bible, we are instructed to study, meditate upon, and memorize scripture. It is my hopes that this booklet will give you what you need to get you started engaging God through study, meditation, and memorization of Scripture.

Study

In Acts 17:11 we learn that the Bereans were more noble than others because they searched the scriptures to find out if what Paul said was true.  They didn’t simply take his word for it but they studied to find the truth. In Paul’s letter to Timothy, he tells him to “Study to show himself approved” (2 Tim 2:15) then later in that letter he tells Timothy that scripture is useful in teaching, correcting, and training in righteousness. (2 Tim 3:16-17).  The study of Scripture is beneficial and it is also necessary for understanding

We sometimes think we can simply open up the Bible and read it and completely understand it. While that is often true it is not always true. Just think of how many times the Bible has been used and applied incorrectly by well or ill-intentioned people. Additionally, even with the things, we can understand think of how much more we can understand when we properly study the passage. To be faithful stewards of scripture and rightly handling the word of truth we need to put in the effort and study. But how?

How to Study the Bible. [2]

There is a popular three-step Bible Study method that is easy to learn and easy to follow. It is a method that can be used by someone just getting started studying scripture as well as someone who is a veteran. It can be used for short studies or long in-depth studies.  The three steps are:

  1. Observation
  2. Interpretation
  3. Application

Step 1 – Observation

In this step, you observe as much as you can in the passage. Start by reading the passage 2 or 3 times. Take a look at the surrounding context. Look at the passage in different translations if you are able and notice any differences in word or phrasing choices.

Ask these type of questions.

  1. Who wrote it and who did they write it to?
  2. If it is a narrative who is speaking and who are they speaking to? What happened to cause the conversation or actions in the passage?
  3. Who are the characters in the passage? What do we know about the characters
  4. When was it written?
  5. When does the story take place?
  6. Where does the story take place?
  7. What are the keywords or ideas in the passages?
  8. Are there any repeated phrases?
  9. Is there any cause and effect or comparisons?
  10. Ask other questions of curiosity. Any question that comes to mind as you read the text write it down.

Do your best to answer the questions. First, see if the passage itself offers an answer. See if the context offers an answer. Refer to outside resources such as Study Bibles, Commentaries, Bible dictionaries, and concordances.

Realize that not all the questions will be answered and that is okay! Also, understand that there will be different opinions about some of the answers and that is okay too! This first stage is an exploratory process where you are trying to see and understand exactly what the text says and who it says it to.

Final notes regarding the observation step, throughout this step, pray, pray, and pray some more for God’s guidance and wisdom. Also, don’t get overwhelmed! depending on your time and ability this first step can be involved and in-depth or as simple as you want it to be. The idea is to do what you can and what God leads and always remember you can ask your pastor or other teachers for help.

Step 2 – Interpretation

In the first step, we do our best to determine what the Bible passage said in this step we do our best to discover the meaning. The question we are trying to answer is “ What is the main idea/ intent,/message of this passage? To discover this we take everything we learned in the first step and do our best to sort it all out. When considering the meaning or purpose of a passage we must consider 5 things

  • Context – what is the flow of thought are we jumping in at the beginning middle or end of this thought process? How do the  surrounding verses relate to the passage? How do the surrounding chapters tie into the passage? How does the passage fit into the content of the whole biblical book?
  • Cross Reference – Can we gain insight on this topic from other places in scripture?
  • Culture – how does the culture of the book/writer factor into our understanding. We need to remember the Bible wasn’t written down the road last week, but thousands of years ago on the other side of the world. The historical/ cultural context of the Bible is hugely important.
  • Conclusion – after considering all of the above make a conclusion about the meaning and purpose of the passage.
  • Consultation – Check what other people have said about this passage with the use of study notes, commentaries, sermons etc. Do they agree or disagree with you? Does your conclusion need to be adjusted? Always be cautious if your conclusion is drastically different than Biblical scholars and the historical teachings of Christianity. Additionally just because 1 commentary disagrees doesn’t mean you are wrong look at various thoughts and weigh them out and allow the Holy Spirit to guide you.

Step 3 – Application

Step 3 is the end goal. We want to become more like Christ and we want his will and way to be done in our lives. Therefore, after we have done the above work we then figure out how the passage impacts our life.

Ask the following questions after every passage of Scripture you study:

  • How does the message of this passage affect my relationship with God?
    ●How does the message of this passage affect my relationship with others?
    ●How does the message of this passage affect me?

The application step is just about simply answering these questions. The idea is acting on what is discovered in scripture. As you actively try to faithfully respond to what God reveals to you God, our creator, will bless you and you will be transformed more and more into the image of Christ.

Meditate

What is meditation? In some systems of thinking meditation is the clearing of one’s thoughts and mind. It is the image of the person sitting cross-legged chanting something over and over again. However, this is NOT what is meant by meditating upon scripture. Meditating upon scripture is not the act of emptying your mind but filling it with God’s truth as found in Scripture. Take a look at Psalm 1.

Blessed is the one
who does not walk in step with the wicked
or stand in the way that sinners take
or sit in the company of mockers,
 but whose delight is in the law of the Lord,
and who meditates on his law day and night.
That person is like a tree planted by streams of water,
which yields its fruit in season
and whose leaf does not wither—
whatever they do prospers.[3]

This passage answers some questions for us. Meditating on God’s law is something done by those who delight in it. If we delight in scripture it will be on our thoughts often. Meditating on scripture is something that can be done day and night. In other words, it can be done throughout the course of a normal day. It can be done while we are out and about doing other things and it can be done as we sit quietly before the Lord.  When we keep God’s word before us and in our minds, it will lead to stability, faithfulness, and fruitfulness. So how do we meditate on Scripture?

The Hebrew word for meditate in Psalm 1 is hagah.  The possible definitions of this word will help us understand what is meant by it. The Dictionary of Biblical languages gives these definitions.

  1. growl, i.e., the sound of a lion (Isa 31:4)

2.meditate, ponder, give serious thought and consideration to selected information, with a possible implication of speaking in low tones reviewing the material (Jos 1:8);

3.speak, utter, i.e., talk in normal tones so others can hear (Job 27:4; Ps 37:30; 71:24);

4.moan, groan, lament, i.e., make soft sounds expressing grief and sorrow (Jer 48:31);

5.plot, plan, i.e., to think and so decide a course of action, with a focus that verbal exchange takes place (Ps 2:1);

6.decide, weigh, i.e., make a judgment about something after a thought process (Pr 15:28);

7.mutter, i.e., to speak in low, hushed tones (Isa 59:3, Isa 8:19[4]

We can see from this range of meaning that to meditate on scripture means to think about it, consider its meaning, speak it to yourself, speak it to others, use it for decision making. Essentially it is letting it fill every area of your life! Isn’t that much more exciting than sitting cross-legged and saying “ooohm”!?

As you do your reading and studying of scripture pick a verse or two that is particularly impactful to you and keep it on your mind throughout the day. Share it with others, preach it to yourself, quote it to yourself, pray it and look for ways to put it into practice.

The more you read scripture the more you study it and memorize it the easier it will be to meditate on it.

Let the message of Christ dwell among you richly as you teach and admonish one another with all wisdom through psalms, hymns, and songs from the Spirit, singing to God with gratitude in your hearts. Colossians 3:16[5]

Memorization

If you grew up in church then you will remember your Sunday school teachers encouraging and bribing you to memorize Bible verses. However, somewhere along the line as we got older something happened and we simply stopped trying or even considering memorizing Bible passages. If you didn’t grow up in church and came to faith later in life then you may or may not have considered memorizing Bible passages. Why should we make scripture memorization a part of our Christian life?

  1. We saw previously the exhortation in Psalm 1 to meditate on God’s word this becomes easier when we know his word.
  2. Memorizing Scripture helps us fight sin (Psalm 119:11, Matthew 4)
  3. Jesus memorized scripture (Matthew 4)
  4. When we know scripture we can encourage one another with it and share it with unbelievers
  5. The list can go on and on.

But!?!

I already know what most of you are thinking. I can’t memorize because [insert reason here]! It is true some people have an easier time memorizing things than others however the more you work on memorizing the better your memory becomes. So if you wish you could memorize bible verses better and if you wish your memory were better then simply start doing your best to memorize scripture and as you put in the effort your memory will improve.

Also, I think we convince ourselves it is something we can’t do and that our brain simply doesn’t memorize stuff, but take a moment and think of all the music lyrics you know. Think about the movie lines you can quote. Think about all the people’s phone numbers you know and how you remember who used to live in that house down the street 30 years ago. Consider how you can walk into a grocery store to the correct aisle and the correct shelf and the correct position on the shelf and grab the brand of peanut butter you like. All of this is not meant to guilt you but to encourage you and say your memory is probably better than you think!

Tips

Here are some tips to help you memorize scripture.

  1. – You will never be able to do it if you don’t try. Even if you don’t get it quickly or perfectly isn’t being able to paraphrase a verse and know about where it is better than not trying and not knowing at all?
  2. Repeat – repetition is our friend. The more you repeat something the more it lets your brain know it is important. Your brain stores the most important information closest to the surface for easiest access.
  3. Put it to music. Sing the words of the verse to a tune. You can make one up or you can find people who have already done this. Using different parts of your brain will help cement the verse in your mind.
  4. Visualize the verse or assign images to each phrase. We are visual and spatial people. If you read Psalm 23 while picturing a shepherd and sheep. Put it together as a movie in your head that will help you remember the words. Optionally assign an image to each phrase. The images are easier to remember and as you remember each image you will remember the words that are attached to it.
  5. Pray – Ask God for help — we do believe God helps us right?
  6. Find a friend to memorize with you. You can practice together and hold one another accountable.
  7. Write it down and carry it with you. Look at it throughout the day
  8. Read it out loud
  9. Choose a verse that is meaningful to you.
  10. Try – you will never memorize it if you don’t try. There are 52 verses listed on the back of this booklet to help get you started. Go ahead and give it a try!

[1]http://www.nazarene.org/articles-faith#4

[2] This section is adapted from.  https://www.biblestudytools.com/bible-study/tips/3-simple-steps-for-studying-the-bible.html

[3]Psalm 1:1-3 NIV

[4]Swanson, James. Dictionary of Biblical Languages with Semantic Domains : Hebrew (Old Testament)1997 : n. pag. Print.

[5]NIV

Christians are Hate -Filled Hypocrites and other Lies you’ve been Told

I was recently reading through the bookOrganic Outreach for Churches” by Kevin G. Harney. This book is all about how churches can naturally and organically reach people around them. One of the points he makes is that our outreach is stifled if we do not love the church. After all, why would we invite others to be a part of something that we really aren’t that fond of ourselves?

But how can we really get excited over the Church when every time we turn around we are seeing a story about a Christian leader caught in a scandal, or a group of Christians picketing a funeral, or researchers that claim that the church is declining at a rapid rate and we are losing all our young people and no one likes Christians. We don’t want to be a part of something like that much less invite others to join us Its like when one of my brothers or sisters would pull a forgotten Tupperware container out of the fridge and upon opening it would exclaim, “Ugh that stinks … here you smell!”

Um no thanks!?

Is the church perfect? Well of course not, but are there great reasons to love her? Absolutely! Here is the thing, we know the church isn’t perfect but did you know that Christianity is doing much better than we are led to believe?

Kevin Harney suggested in “Organic Outreach another book. A book that sounded incredibly interesting. A book that for the time being (until I read something else) has become my favorite book.

“Christians are Hate-Filled Hypocrites…And Other Lies You’ve Been Told” By Bradley R.E. Wright.

This book is full of great information and sprinkled with just enough sarcastic humor to keep it fun. He looks at multiple assumptions and popular opinions about Christianity and looks at the data to determine if it is true.

To put it simply – We can all calm down —- things are NOT as bad as we have been sometimes led to believe.

  • Christianity is not on the brink of extinction.
  • We are not losing all of our young people
  • Christian’s do love each other and we are not just as sinful as the world.

While all of these things run contrary to the sensationalist headlines that would lead us to believe Christianity is on its way out and we are all hate-filled hypocrites, this good report shouldn’t be a surprise to us.

It shouldn’t be surprising that God’s church is thriving.
It shouldn’t be surprising that people’s hearts and lives are truly transformed by the power of Christ – after all, didn’t he transform your life and weren’t you added to his kingdom?

 

Wright writes, “ This positive message is very different from what we often hear from Christian leaders, teachers, and researchers. Their message can go something like this: American Christianity is rapidly dying, and Christians are immoral, disliked, and not very good at being Christians, So…go invite your friends to join us.”

If you have $6 and a little bit of time jump on Amazon and get a copy and perhaps it will help you go with confidence to your friends, families, and neighbors inviting them to join the Christian movement that is sweeping the world and changing lives for the better.

Grass and Gardens

This year my family and I planted a garden. This is a first for us and we are excited to see how it all turns out. One reason that we planted a garden is we like vegetables — and what better than garden fresh vegetables! Another reason I think starting a garden would be beneficial for me is for the spiritual lessons that can be learned and illustrated with the process of gardening. Take a minute sometime and scan through your Bible from the Old Testament to the new and you will find many many illustrations and lessons that use the process of planting and growing and harvesting as a backdrop or illustration. Jesus used agricultural imagery frequently in his teachings and yes the concepts can be understood even if you have never put a seed in soil and watered it but how much more impactful it is if you know exactly – from experience- what Jesus is talking about.  So I planted a garden.

I was poking around in my garden yesterday. Sometimes poking around in it for me simply means looking at it and being amazed at how fast everything seemed to pop up. looking at the bright green growing from the dirt with excitement and anticipation of what is to come. But yesterday I noticed some weeds growing in the garden very small ones almost unnoticeable. At first, I wasn’t even sure if they were weeds or something I had planted. However, after careful examination, I saw that these little green leaves that were popping up didn’t look anything like any of the other plants. Looking at them closer I saw that looked the same as the grass in my yard. In fact, if this little weed had been growing 10 feet away I would have called it grass rather than a weed, but it wasn’t growing 10 feet away it was in my garden and it had friends so they were weeds.

Isn’t it interesting that on one side of the 12′ tall cedar board that defines the perimeter of my garden the grass is natural, expected, understood, even perhaps desirable, but on the other side – on the inside- of the garden the weed is invasive, unnatural, not welcome, dangerous and needs to be removed.

That is a picture of what holiness is.

Holiness is a church word. We talk about it and we say we want it in our lives but what is it?

To be Holy means to be set apart — set apart for a particular purpose.

When it comes to my backyard that 4×8 space is set apart for a purpose. The purpose of producing vegetables anything within that space that works contrary to that purpose is unwanted. It is defiling. Even a blade of grass that grows anywhere else in the yeard would be normal — here in the garden, it is not normal.

God has made us (those who have put our faith and trust in Christ) Hol. He has set us apart for a particular purpose and that purpose is to Produce fruit that glorifies the father (John 15). All around us, there are things that society would call normal. Things that are expected. things that are desired. Things that it would be strange for someone to heat us calling a weed because to them it looks like grass.

However, if we bring those things into our lives- the garden God has planted- it would be detrimental to our purpose it would be defiling. When we discover these things they must be removed.

May God bless you this week. May you continually be made more and more into the image of Christ and as you remain in him may he produce the fruits of godliness inyour life. Amen

Sluuuuuuuuuuurp.

If you are a moviegoer you may have experienced this. The movie is coming to a climactic point.

  •  The man is about to profess his love
  • Batman and Superman are about to find out that their moms are both named Martha
  • Spiderman is about to find out it was his girlfriend’s dad all along
  • The evil professor is about to profess faith in Christ.

Then you hear from the seat next to you or the row above you, “SLLLUUUUUURRRRRRRPPP!” Someone trying to force the last drops of Mountain Dew up the straw and into their mouth and as they do so the air and liquid fight for space in the straw and the noise of the battle reverberates across the theater. I mean they have to get it all out of there because there are no free refills at the movies. The most annoying part is not the noise that is being made, but you know just as well as I do( because at one point or another the sound of that slurp came from our own straws) that the person struggling to get those last drops of sweet green liquid is experiencing no hydrating satisfaction. They are only getting a few drops of watered down soda because the cup is empty.

Have you ever felt like that? Empty. Trying so hard to keep going but there are only a few watered down drops left in the cup. The only use it has is to distract others and frustrate the drinker. This happens to the best of us and it seems to happen more and more and more. Because we are always on the run, always have a meeting or an event on the schedule. Always working more hours to have more money. Always drinking from a cup expecting an endless supply of “go” only to be let down.

Take some time this week — and every week.  Slow down. Rest. Trust God. Go to the counter and get a free refill – the movie theater won’t give you that, but God will.

 

Matthew11:28 “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.

29 Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.

30 For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.

Chirping Birds.

I awoke this morning to the sounds of chirping birds. Not too long ago the ground was covered in 6 inches of snow and even more recently there was a sheet of ice that engulfed everything. Winter is a time of death. The grass is no longer green. There are no more leaves on the trees. The squirrels are hidden away. Everything is drab, dreary and cold. In the winter we like to huddle up by the fire, wrap ourselves in a blanket, drink some cocoa or cider, put on Netflix and wait. We wait for the glorious spring. We wait for flowers to bloom. We wait for squirrels to come out and play. We wait for leaves to fill the trees. We wait for chirping birds and we wait for life. 

This morning I awoke to the sounds of birds chirping, but it is still winter, it is still cold, it is still dreary the trees are still bare. The birds reassured me that winter is almost over and spring is almost here. the season of death is almost over and life will soon emerge. 

We Christians are in the season of Lent a season of preparation for Springtime – for Resurrection Sunday the day Christ triumphantly rose from the grave. It is not here yet, but the birds are chirping, “It is almost here!”

Not only are we now observing this season of Lent, but from the time of the apostles till now the world has been in the winter waiting for the springtime. Winter constantly assaults our senses we feel it in our bones, we see the dreariness, the cold even seems to have a smell, but our ears hear something else our ears hear the birds chirping our ears hear springtime. It will soon be here the day we rise with Christ. The day winter ends and springtime goes on in perpetuity. 

Now, since our message is that Christ has been raised from death, how can some of you say that the dead will not be raised to life? If that is true, it means that Christ was not raised; and if Christ has not been raised from death, then we have nothing to preach and you have nothing to believe. More than that, we are shown to be lying about God, because we said that he raised Christ from death—but if it is true that the dead are not raised to life, then he did not raise Christ. For if the dead are not raised, neither has Christ been raised. And if Christ has not been raised, then your faith is a delusion and you are still lost in your sins. It would also mean that the believers in Christ who have died are lost. If our hope in Christ is good for this life only and no more, then we deserve more pity than anyone else in all the world. But the truth is that Christ has been raised from death, as the guarantee that those who sleep in death will also be raised.
(1 Corinthians 15:12-20)